BETH CAIRD

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Beth Caird uses text, video, sound and field recordings, found ephemera, paper, digital files, gestures, and read words as performance. Beth's practice is founded on creating images from differing viewpoints of an imagined brain with a differing neural pathway (such as creating videos shot from the perspective of a mosquito or alternate sense of self). 


Current questions that ground Beth's practice are; what can our brains do, who are we really, how would we like to be with one another, and what should we do now? Beth graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art (Photography) Honours from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2014. She has exhibited in multiple 
solo and group exhibitions,including: Rules for Leaving a Small Town, West Space (2014); The Bureau of Writing at the 20th Biennale of Sydney (2016); and recently curated a group exhibition, There Is A Pain - So Utter at Gertrude Glasshouse. As an artist, writer and editor, her work has appeared in various publications including: sub-editor with Aodhan Madden for un Magazine 9.1 and 9.2 with Editor Pip Wallis (2015); Beth presented work on Chris Kraus' book Where Art Belongs at the Royal College of Art conference Aliens and Anorexia in 2013. Beth is a current Gertrude Contemporary Studio Artist (2017-2019) and is involved in a forthcoming exhibition curated by Faith Wilson and Esme Hoogeven at the artist-run initiative Blinkers, in Winnipeg in the province of Manitoba, Canada, later this year.

Gertrude Gallery Coordinator, Siobhan Sloper, spoke to Beth about her practice and recent projects.

Siobhan Sloper: For your Glasshouse exhibition There is a pain - so utter, you curated an exhibition rather than present a solo project and took as inspiration Lee Lozano’s iconic Dropout Piece (1969-1972), where the work itself was Lozano’s active withdrawal from the art world. Why does this work resonate with you so much?

Beth Caird: To me Lozano's infamous Dropout Piece speaks to me deeply as it is founded in a practice of life and life as practice. It represents that even when we are in moments of quiet, stillness, grief, becoming or daily routine — art is imbued into us as we are alive. Lozano never intended her Dropout Piece to ever be public knowledge. Only after her death this artwork discovered in her private notebooks. It made me examine what it means to constitute an artistic life.

Lozano created Dropout Piece in a time of great depression and personal anguish, which I feel enormous compassion for. I feel an affinity with artists who cannot not make — who even in the privacy of notebooks and the alienation of depression, can still be generative and generous to themselves in their existence. I am careful not to romanticise Lezano’s personal pain. Rather, I choose to look at what she continued to do - her performance - as an activated choice which was critical in the development of performance art in the 1970s. To me, Lozano’s work is deeply grounded in a hopefulness of the shared commonality of a future tomorrow, a tomorrow that with or without a studio, an exhibition, a show or a pageant —art can and always will be with us.

SS: You’ve just been over in New Zealand where you held an exhibition what should I do now, with my hands? at Blue OysterDunedin. How did you find the reception of your work from our Kiwi friends, and what do you feel are the differences between the arts ecology here and there?

BC: I found the reception of the work affirming and positive. I feel lucky that I got to know, work and trust Blue Oyster director Grace Ryder, and that she asked writer Iona Winter to respond to the exhibition with a poem, MŌTEATEA. I think the arts ecology there is different in that it has a much smaller population and land size, so the people creating, curating and looking at art are a smaller, more focused audience. I think it’s impossible not to note how Creative NZ  at this time fund small organisations and provide funding for individual artists projects in a way we do not currently experience in Australia (austerity makes individuals desperate). I do not feel that same, or similar desperation in New Zealand. I look up to and admire curators I have been able to work with, particularly Melanie Oliver, Grace Ryder, Sophie Davis and Chloe Geoghegan, and the work of Talia Smith and Rebecca Boswell. In 2015, Melanie, who was then at The Physics Room before moving to be Senior Curator at The Dowse Museum in Wellington, ran a workshop at Cass Station, near Arthur’s Pass in New Zealand. This workshop looked at expanded forms of art writing and, to me, represents the laterally minded expansive field of curatorship occurring in pockets of New Zealand. These artists and curators are incredible in their commitment to the multiplicities of form that people, artists, writing, art, performance and design can intersect and inhabit. That workshop really informed and shaped my life and I got to meet other artists like Anna Rankin and Evangeline Riddiford Graham, who are some of the brightest, kindest people I have ever met.  It was inspiring to be amongst so many people committed to a widening of how and what we experience art and writing as, and I feel lucky to have formed these friendships since 2015.

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SS: Writing and language play an important role in your practice. How do you negotiate the boundaries of what is an art practice and what is a writing practice, or do you see them as one in the same? 

BC: When I was studying art at VCA, I had a crit with one of my teachers who sharply told me to stop making artworks that could be pieces of writing. This conversation helped define for me a delineation between what needed to exist as an artwork, and what needed to exist as a piece of writing. Then one of my parents died, and nothing needed to exist. These have all been good conversations with myself in deciding what artworks need to exist as. Since then, I have these conversations with every artwork I make. I question if this could be a piece of writing, and if so, I make it. That being said, I don’t believe in those boundaries needing to exist in the first place. In my process, I always start with words and writing. I will 'write out' a video or an image, similarly to a film script before I begin anything. I actually think of myself as a painter. The images I make are situated in a writing practice to begin with, and always depart from there to a finished painting - in that it is an amalgamation of process, materiality and subject that is as open as paintings is to its future use of possible colours. My artworks exist because they cannot be pieces of writing, and that is an enjoyable puzzle to sift through. 

SS: What are you reading at the moment?

BC: At the moment I am reading about two main areas that will be the foundation for new work created in late 2018. I have been reading and studying Catherine Malabou’s What Should We Do With Our Brain? as well as her writing on The Fold. These pieces of reading came after reading Sarah Ahmed’s writing on the Contingency of Pain. Malabou’s writing on brain neuroplasticity has helped inform my practice of creating images from differing viewpoints of an imagined brain with a differing neural pathway to my own.

I am reading as much as I can about rock climbers in the USA and the correlation between the amygdala (at the base of our brain near the hippocampus, the home of our fight or flight response) in their brains and why, in the brains of the world’s best rock climbers, their fight or flight responses do not fire - if at all, barely at the rate of an average humansfight or flight response. Are Alex Honnold (who free solo rock climbed El Capitan in Yosemite National Park), Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden incredible at rock climbing because their amygdala doesn’t fire and subsequently they do not experience panic like we do? Or does their amygdala not fire and a panic response not occur because they have trained, for thousands of hours, since childhood, to re-train their neural pathways to react differently under stress?

These questions about neural pathways, with Malabou’s writing, are grounded in questions at the heart of my practice; What can our brains do? Who are we really? How would we like to be with one another? And what should we do now?

I am also reading a lot about Orcha Whale communities and activities — as a way to process and let go of somatic bodily trauma as they do together.

SS.  What are some artworks that make you think - 'I wish I had thought of that'?

BC: 'I wish I had thought of that', that happens constantly, and is a really thoughtful experience, I think all the time about the performance artwork by activists, Crying For Ana Mendieta. I don't wish I could steal credit, I just wish I could have experienced it, seen it, been part of it. There are a few artworks where I feel so strongly that I think, 'I wish I made that', but two artworks do stick out in my mind. I think so often of Mierle Kaderman Ukeles' Maintenance Series, specifically her work, Washing, Tracks, Maintenance (1973) where she would go to art museums and scrub the museum steps with soapy water using a bucket and mop. It was a really powerful work. Yesterday, I read the line of this Helen Gardner essay where she begins by saying she has the rage of 'the person who does all the housework'. I feel like that line, and Ukeles urgent scrubbing of museum steps back in 1973has an intergenerational bent-linear connection. 

Also, Ronni Horn made this copper sculpture that was commissioned by Donald Judd (Judd commissioned 12 artists for his project down in Marfa while he was alive, only 1 of the 12 artists was a woman) called Things Which Happen Again, it's at the Chinati Foundation, near the Judd Foundation, in Marfa, Texas. It was incredibly moving, I lovedits form, and it has always stayed with me. I would like to have made it, and also have it gently rolled over me. I would like to go and visit it again. 

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Beth will be exhibiting a video work An Awful Leisure at a film screening as part of artist Spencer Lai's exhibition A smile forms into a grimace mid-slumber as the earth spins— it’s funny, such is the sound of laughter — it is like god’s hands on the shoulders of a troubled world at Bus Projects, 31 October - 24 November. The film screening will take place on the evening of the Thursday, 22 November.


NICHOLAS MANGAN

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Nicholas Mangan is one of the most respected and internationally active artists working in Australia at the moment. With a practice with an emphasis on rigourous research and manifesting in sculpture, video, installation, photography and assemblage, his work reflects upon humankind’s relationship to the natural world and the manner in which nature has been both monetised in terms of resources, and has acted as an instrument of economic transfer and value equilibrity. Nick has exhibited extensively over the past two decades, with major recent exhibitions including Limits to Growth, Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2017); Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne; and Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2016); Ancient Lights, Labor, Mexico City (2016); and Chisenhale Gallery, London (2015); Other Currents, Artspace, Sydney (2016); Some Kind of Duration, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne (2012); and Between a rock and a hard place, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2009). His work has also been included in many important group exhibitions and biennales including the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018); The National 2017: New Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2017); SeMA Biennale, Mediacity Seoul (2016); 11th Gwangju Biennale: the Eighth Climate (What Does Art Do?) (2016); New Museum Triennial: Surround Audience, New York City (2015); Art in the age of… Witte de With, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (2015); 13th Istanbul Biennial: Mom, am I a barbarian? (2013); 2010 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Before and After Science; and TarraWarra Biennial 2008: Lost and Found, an Archaeology of the Present.

Nick was a studio artist at Gertrude from 2001 – 2003 and has contributed and participated in numerous exhibitions since this time, with solo exhibitions including Misplaced/Displayed Mass – A1 Southwest Stone, Studio 12 (2008); The Colony (2005); and The Obolus, Studio 12, (2002); as well as presenting works in Octopus 14: Nothing Beside Remains (2014); and in the final exhibition in Gertrude’s former location in Fitzroy, The End of Time. The Beginning of Time (2017).

Mark Feary: I have been following your work since one of your early solo exhibitions, OBTX4Plastralwallmold, at Penthouse and Pavement in Carlton in 2001, and have seen a number of very significant shifts in your practice over this time. In your practice, there was quite an emphasis on formal and material exploration, with the work being very embedded within the actual making of the work and producing a kind of planned execution. How would you suggest these concerns have shifted over time?
Nicholas Mangan: The concerns in the work, the boarder arch concerning human engagement with the natural word, its manipulation and exploitation has remained, what has shifted is the attempt to understand the complexity and conflicts that are present in the materials and events that I seek to unpack. It’s certainly not something I think I have resolved and it’s an ongoing process, a process which continually reshapes the outcomes of the work, both in what is produced and an attempt to better understand and respond to the context of where is it situated.

MF: I recall you did a residency at Berlin in around 2007 / 2008, and thereafter, I felt there was quite a marked change in your practice in terms of its underpinning research and materiality. As your first residency of significance away of Melbourne, and studying in a German post-graduate institution, would it be a fair suggestion that this period was one that had a transformational impact on your work and thinking? 
NM: I think this time was an important moment to step back from what I was doing, which until then, had been focused on material investigations deployed through the singular sculptural object, and until this point the production of the work was also physically laborious. It gave me an opportunity to pause long enough so that when I did start again I found I was able re-orientate the direction and approach to my practice rather than continuing to flog a dead horse, so to speak.  I was really looking for a way to open the work up to bring more of the circumstances that led to the significance of the materials, objects and events I was investigating, I was trying to find a way to capture the boarder narratives that they were involved in. I was enrolled as a guest student at the Universität der Künste Berlin, which proved to be a productive situation, after a while I stopped going, and around this time I befriended some of the students that were down at the Staedelschule in Frankfurt who had studied in the class of Simon Starling as well as meeting New Zealand artist Michael Stevenson, who had been living in Berlin for some time.  I had been interested in Michael’s work remotely, but through our conversations and helping out a bit with his work, I learnt a lot in terms of practice-driven investigation. Ultimately, although Europe was totally transformative in terms of the kinds of practices I was exposed to, I didn’t feel a deep enough connection to European history or even the more immediate local art world zeitgeists, but rather, felt a pull back towards Australia and the complex and fraught historic narratives that had been forged both with our neighboring islands and internally, the residual and ongoing effects of colonial occupation.

MF: Is there a previous project of yours that you have particular fondness for?
NM: Nauru, Notes from a Cretaceous World (2009-10) was the first project I engaged in when I returned to Melbourne after living in Europe. With many of the things I had learned while in Berlin, I wanted to adapt them to a local context. In the case of Nauru it was a historical narrative that was stranger that any fiction could conjure where the site and place presented a series of ready-made expanded sculptural situations produced by social conditions which would became the material for the work. I couldn’t just go out and buy the materials needed to make the work, rather it involved protracted conversations and negotiating, a lot of unlearning and the almost impossible task of obtaining a visa to travel to Nauru. I traveled to the island twice to film, as well as freighting a coral limestone rock back to Melbourne which was almost confiscated by customs. Further to this I used one of the limestone pinnacles that had been originally shipped from Nauru that was mounted in the forecourt of the Nauru House high-rise at 80 Collins Street in Melbourne. Through my research, I had learned that the then president of Nauru, Bernard Dowiyogo, while in America seeking medical support for diabetes had been quoted by a journalist as stating that he planned to save the island from immanent bankruptcy by using the millions of coral pinnacles that were exposed due to the strip mining of the island, and turn these pinnacles into ancient coral coffee tables. Dowiyogo passed away before such a project could be completed and the pinnacles that had once adorned the entry court of the Nauru House where removed when the building had to be sold as the country had defaulted on a serious loan. I feared they had been send to the tip, after a lot of detective work I learnt that the pinnacles had been in fact moved to the backyard of Nauru’s former spokesperson in Flinders. Then I explained to her my idea to complete Dowiyogo’s project to make coffee tables. Though the action of transforming one these pinnacles into an ancient coral coffee table, slicing through its material I felt I was somehow entering into the history of Nauru and participating in the telling of its story.

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MF: Your recent project at Sutton Gallery, Termite Economies, is something of a rare return to sculptural making on your part, vastly different in material form to recent projects such as Ancient Lights (2015) and other works unpacking Yap currencies and their histories and connection points to trade, exchange and current cryptocurrencies. What has been like for you to work on this project, as one of quite material form, albeit perhaps not sculpted by you directly insofar as its use of 3D printing?
NM: The ideas that became bound up in the sculptural forms of Termite Economies came out of thinking about the future of labour, and about capitalism’s desire for just about anything to work. I had originally attempted to make the termite architectures myself but there was something jarring in that process, it needed to be a labour that wasn’t human. The 3D printing process was interesting to me as it was a way of building something from the ground up, an accretive topology, I was attempting to conjure a space that existed in-between the organic and digital. I felt this desire to return to object-making after pushing on the limits of dematerialisation in previous works, ultimately for me my broader project is about how ideas, ideologies and narratives become embeded in physical things or about how much of the virtual is still very anchored or indebted to the physical world in order to exist. I was thinking of the forms produced for Termite Economies as termite trainingcentres, mental mappings or cognitive mining diagrams.

MF: You’ve forged an impressive exhibition history to date, exhibiting extensively internationally. What are some of the benefits of continuing to be based in Australia?
NM: I found the international scene overwhelming in many ways, I think the slowness here somehow works for me, it also definitely has its setbacks, but I’ve been really lucky to have had some great international opportunities and have somehow managed to keep those conversations alive. It’s also really important to have an ongoing local conversation with people who have followed what you do over a long period of time, I also think there are some really great artists and thinkers here in Australia. While it’s a hard moment in
termssurviving and sustaining things, it’s also a really exciting moment in terms of conversations and production. The next generation of artists, at least the ones I have had the fortune of working with in a teaching context, are really sophisticated and nuanced in their approach to the world but also the changing conditions of being an artist and I feel energised by this. I also have a young family so apart from the depressing situation that oozes out of Parliament House, it’s a pretty good place to live.

MF: What is coming up for you on the horizon?
NM: Recently I came across an article in the newspaper about a group of scientists based in Australia that
have leased one of first Victorian goldmines in Stawell, 3 hours drive north-west of Melbourne, and are currently building an underground physics laboratory 1000 meters underground in one of the mine tunnels to prospect for dark matter. They will house sophisticated equipment that will attempt to detect light from dark matter, I’ve been thinking of it as a camera obscura for the universe.  I’m in the very early stages of thinkinghow I might be able to respond to this.
 
Nicholas Mangan is represented by Sutton Gallery, Melbourne; LABOR, Mexico City; andHopkinson Mossman, Auckland
and Wellington.


EUGENIA LIM

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Eugenia Lim works across video, performance and installation to explore nationalism and stereotypes with a critical but humorous eye. Lim invents personas to explore alienation and belonging in a globalised world. Her work has been exhibited, screened and performed at the TATE Modern, Dark MOFO, Melbourne Festival, Next Wave, GOMA, ACMI, Asia TOPA, firstdraft, Artereal Gallery, FACT Liverpool and EXiS Seoul. She has been artist-in-residence with the Experimental Television Centre NY, Bundanon Trust, 4A Beijing Studio and the Robin Boyd Foundation.

In addition to her solo practice, collaboration and community are important to Lim’s work. Lim co-founded Channels Festival, was the founding editor (and current editor-at-large) of Assemble Papers and co-founded temporal art collective Tape Projects (2007–2013).

Gertrude Gallery Coordinator, Siobhan Sloper, spoke to Eugenia about her practice and upcoming projects.

Siobhan Sloper: First of all let me say welcome to the Gertrude Studio Program, we’re very excited to have you here and to see your projects evolve over the next two years. You’re working on a project at the moment called The Australian Ugliness, can you tell me a little about this? 

Eugenia Lim: Thanks, I'm glad to be here. My project The Australian Ugliness (TAU) is an exhibition and public program that looks at the ethics and aesthetics of Australia today. I'll present it this July as part of 
Open House MelbourneTAU takes its name from a polemic book by modernist architect Robin Boyd in which he critiqued the love of surface, veneer,featurism and 'she'll be right' attitudes of our national identity. More than 50 years on, while our tastes and cultural awareness have become more sophisticated, much of what Boyd rallied against - cultural cringe, mistreatment of Aboriginal Australians and our underlying racism and anxiety about who we are and our place in a global context - still I think, defines us. My work is a three-channel video installation which is filmed in Australian cities and suburbs (not all of them - my budget wouldn't stretch that far!) and features 'the Ambassador', my gold-suited performance persona. Icons like Jørn Utzon's Sydney Opera House and Tao Gofers' Sirius Building, through to private homes like Gottlieb House by Wood Marsh are activated and 'othered' by myself and a small cast of performers. I guess I'm interested in questions like: who has the right to the city? Who designs our public and private spaces, and who are they for? How does contemporary architecture address or accommodate people of colour, women, queer and non-binary people, students and the working class? It's the first time I've made a multi-channel video of this scale, and I'm currently working with local architecture wunderkinds WOWOWA on bright yellow installation (based on a 1970's fish and chips shop by Robin Boyd) to house the work - a kind of utopian womb pavilion for the audience's viewing pleasure.

SS: Sounds like a great project, I look forward to seeing it. Gold is a repeated motif in a number of your projects (Yellow Peril, 2015; Shelter, 2015;Artificial Islands (Interior Archipelago), 2017 and The People’s Currency, 2017). What’s your fascination with it? 

EL: I first 'struck' gold when I was making my project Yellow Peril. I was researching my family's experience of migration from Singapore to Australia, which happened in the 1970s during the White Australia Policy and at the same time, the history of the Chinese diaspora and migration to this country. I was looking at the gold rush in the mid 1800s, and the influx of Chinese who came to the goldfields of Victoria and New South Wales to seek their fortunes. There was a deep fear of the Chinese from European miners – there was riots and killings directed at the Chinese and this resentment ultimately led to the Immigration Restriction Act (1901), which aimed to prevent the Chinese from entering Australian borders. I was interested in how within the foundation of Australian democracy: the right to vote and the Federation of Australia was also entwined this racism and fear of the 'yellow peril'. The first act passed by the new parliament was the Immigration Restriction Act. So within dominant narratives and histories of nationalism and democracy, how do we talk about and give voice to the Chinese, First Nations people, women and those who were marginalised? Gold became important as a metaphor and material to start to do this, a kind of symbolic 'shorthand'. The gold emergency blankets that I continue to use in my work have a duality about them that I love: they are both symbols of survival, but of fragility and crisis. Gold stands for 'gold fever', a symbol that fluctuates in value on a daily basis, something that can never be fully attained. For better or (probably) worse, gold and mining is intrinsic to the economic and cultural identity of Australia and adopting it in my work allows me to explore contemporary China as well.

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SS: What role does writing play in your practice? Can you talk a little about the relationship between the visual and the written components of your work?

EL: Writing is where all of my work starts. Titles and wordplay are really important: words frame the work that comes after and is both open and specific enough to generate the ideas and forms the project will take. I read as widely as I can when I'm researching and then write down key words or phrases that jump out, often combining them in permutations that make a new or unfamiliar thing. I find words to be incredibly visual – or maybe I whittle them down to try to find the visual in them. I'm a very slow writer – when I 'write' an article or interview, I labour over it and it's quite agonising... until it starts to take its own shape and then the logic and what it needs to be takes over. In contrast, when I write while I'm forming ideas for an artwork, the words are scribbled or typed rapid-fire, quite feverishly, seeking and forging connections that might turn into something more, something to translate into form. Writing has been there since I was a kid and had a fanzine with my best friend where we interviewed our favourite bands, through to editing my high school magazine and then my current work with Assemble Papers. It's the way I start to synthesise ideas – how I make sense of my position, experience and perspective in relation to the status quo, or a politician's, or another artist or social movement – and then this written synthesis carries through into how I try to distill or synthesise the personal with the geopolitical or the national in my artwork.  I actually was on the road to being a poet (!) and did some probably terrible spoken word at sticky carpet pubs at uni; thankfully this performative tendency has manifested in a slightly different way for me.
 
SS: A poet! Who are your favourite poets? Do they inspire your art practice? 

EL: Oh, it's delving through the mists of time to think about poets as I don't read much poetry anymore. But The Pillowbook by Sei Shōnagon (an
 
11th century Japanese courtesan) is an all-time favourite; Anne Carson and Raymond Carver are two more who distill whole worlds and relationships into the most concise words. The people who inspire my art practice now are artists: Tehching Hsieh, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Justin Shoulder and Agnès Varda among many others. 
 
SS: What appealed to you about the Gertrude Studio Program?

EL: I've been visiting Gertrude since I started going to galleries in high school; I guess I've always looked to it as a barometer and incubator of contemporary art practice in Melbourne and Australia through its studio program. I've had many friends go through and can see the impact it's had on their practice and careers. I'm at a point where I'm working on an ambitious scale and continuing to push what I do into untested territory, so to do this with the support of the other artists and staff and audiences through the Studio Program is opportune timing. Thanks for having me.


Eugenia is currently seeking support for The Australian Ugliness (TAU) through  an Australian Culture Fund campaign. All donations go directly towards the construction and materials for the exhibition design. Please Click Here to donate. 


RAAFAT ISHAK

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In anticipation of his forthcoming solo exhibition at Gertrude, Mark Feary posed some questions to Raafat Ishak about his project Chicken River and broader practice. Foundational within Ishak’s practice is an interest in and knowledge of Arabic and Western art histories, and the evolving contemporary collisions and mutations through migration and points of conflict. Through painting, drawing and installation, Ishak has created a unique visual language that explores concepts of cultural intersectionality,recontextualising cultural motifs from the Middle East and the West to reflect upon a more porous global context, yet one still marred by ideological differences. For his project at Gertrude, Ishak continues this interest in cultural transference and the collapsing of historical temporalities, constructing a staircase through the gallery ceiling, enraptured by a suite of paintings that examine an imaging of the 19th century classical revival in Athens and mid 20th century Australian warplane industry.

Mark Feary: Your engagement with Gertrude goes back over some significant time, with one of your first solo exhibitions, And Government, being staged at what was then known as 200 Gertrude Street in 1995. Can you discuss that project and some of the concerns of your practice at that time?
 
Raafat Ishak: And Government was my first solo show. It was my first show of any significance, group or solo. I had been out of art school for 5 or so years, which I had spent in my studio, making work, with very little contact with other artists except for those in my immediate environment, friends, girlfriends, 
house mates and studio mates. So, Gertrude was really my first introduction to the art world. I had been working on small semi-figurative paintings which I kept mounting up in the studio. Mostly images that revolved around Australian and Egyptian themes. I guess I was still working with ways of understanding the cultural transformation which I had experienced 10 years earlier. And Government seemed like a textual or literal vehicle for this negotiation. The project also introduced the black square into my work, as a way to end point a gesture, a statement or a conversation, a full stop, or a point of reversing and returning to the beginning of the conversation, so in some ways it was Malevichian and in other ways, it resembled Mecca's Kaaba, a point of pilgrimage and return.

MF: Even the title of that 1995 show, And Government, resonates with more recent titles for your work, such as Responses to an immigration request from one hundred and ninety-four governments (2006-9), and Nomination for the presidency of the New Egypt (2012). How do you use painting as a form of political and cultural interrogation?
RI: Art has a capacity to interrogate, stipulate, propose and imagine other ways of negotiating politics and the world in general. The voice of art, if there is such thing, is inherently liberated from the confines of professional political dialogue, hence its utopian and dystopian aspirations, it cannot be taken seriously in practical terms but it can certainly be considered in imaginative terms, it lays seeds for ideas, it does not necessarily drive them or realise them, that becomes somebody else's job. The question of painting can be problematic, because it is too objective, collectable and perhaps underhandedly neo-liberal without realising it. I guess it is that historical weight that painting carries, which allows it to linger, join an existing and ongoing trajectory for images to negotiate the world. History can be painting's undoing but at the same time it can liberate it from ephemeral forms of activism or user-friendly discourses. I guess that makes it slightly anti-social, but that's perhaps what I find most intriguing about it, its pretense, its chimeras but also its humanism and its vulnerabilities.
So, with the presidency work for example, I was on the one hand proposing an alternativelife style for myself, a presidency, which I actually looked into. For the first time in a very long time, anyone can nominate for the Egyptian presidential elections, so I did, and obviously didn't get very far so I returned to being an artist. On the other hand, the work which has a manifesto as part of it, proposes genuine political change based on the re-flooding of the Nile River, returning to cyclic work patterns in farming and construction, it was not flippant, it was well researched. It was a real proposition that would require massive political and economic courage and years of transition but it would pay off, or so I believe.
MF: With frequent stylistic, cultural and political references to the Middle East, how does your work conduit between that context and Melbourne as the context within which you have long since lived and worked?
 
RI: I suppose I never 
quiet understood why I left Egypt. I understand the family circumstances which led to the migration, but I have never personally reconciled myself with the reasons. It always seemed like a holiday, which 35 years later is still happening. So, aside from the obvious, and that is that I lived there until I was 14, have incredibly fond memories of it, and inevitably, this cultural grounding would never leave me, I also think that I hold on to an imaginary and of course delusional sense that I still belong there and that makes its language, culture and political events relevant to my thinking.
MF: Your painting practice has such a distinctive and idiosyncratic language, oscillating between figuration and abstraction. What are some of your enduring influences, artistic and otherwise?
 
RI: There are definitely Eastern influences that inflict my image-making. The word influence is here interesting because I think of it as something similar to a disease, an infliction, rather than a conscious choice. And to add, I don't believe I would have become an artist had I stayed in Egypt, I would have become a traffic controller, a ministry of transport official and would have worked up the ministerial ladder so I can make traffic decisions. I guess traffic oscillates between figuration and abstraction with ease. Other influences are learned influences, artists that teachers who I respected introduced me to, de Cherico, Duchamp, Malevich, Picasso, Böcklin, Delacroix. Or artists who are my peers and teachers, list too long. But I should at least mention local senior artists without embarrassment, Tyndall, Clarke, Lowe, Persson and dead ones like Brack and Tanner.
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MF: Although you have painted on canvas and linen previously, you generally seem to opt for more rigid,  low cost surfaces like MDF. What is your attraction to these kinds of materials?

RI: The works for Gertrude are on canvas, but yes, I have mostly used MDF. Cost is a good consequence but not a decisive factor. Its more that it has that image of being cheap and nasty, the leftover rubbish of timber turned into hard board, so it is a slight challenge to the conservational conventions of painting, somewhat anti-precious and anti-establishment. That aside, the colour works for me, it reminds me of the Egyptian desert, slightly bleak and very empty, no precious timbers and minerals to imagine one painting on and with. And additionally, it is an extremely flat and paint loving surface, especially for acrylics, which I have stopped using.

MF: For an artist who works largely, although not exclusively, in painting, you have collaborated quite frequently with other artists, such as Damiano Bertoli and Tom Nicholson. In what is quite an individual mode of practice, such as painting, how do you approach a process of collective authorship?

RI: I guess I don't think of myself exclusively as a painter, I prefer artist, it is just that painting has provided me with the tools I needed to negotiate my concerns and interests. Working with other artists, particularly artists who are essentially friends and whom I have a great deal of admiration for their work, collaborations allow me to step back from myself, meaning my work, which is essentially individualistic and confined to studio modes of production and so on. It is just another way of sharing a meal or a beer, and when the interests intersect, it feels natural and worthwhile. I think it is also idealistic and ideal, collective authorship, if it can be nurtured and I guess accepted, can generate some valuable pursuits, discussions, possibilities. Artists and painters are notorious for believing too much in their individuality, I think this is a bit deluded, everything is inherited, and as Damiano would suggest, continuous.
 
MF: What can we expect with your upcoming project at Gertrude, Chicken River
 
RI: 8 small paintings (oil on canvas) and a large sculpture (which an architect friend drew for me so I can give it to a carpenter friend who would understand how to build it). The works are based on a painting I made in 1987, just before I started art school, a painting which I have always had up in my studio, wondering what to do with. In brief, the 1987 painting, and the new paintings, look at Arnold Böcklin's painting Isle of the Dead (1880), neo-classical architecture built in Greece in the 19th century, mid-century 
warplanes, particularly ones manufactured in Australia, and Australian fauna and flora, as well as a couple of children's books. There are of course the usual references to early-century Russian art and an unabashed interest in humans' desire to fly, unaided. 
 
Selected recent exhibitions include: 100 Masterpieces of Modern and Contemporary Arab Art, The Barjeel Collection, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 2017; 1977, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, 2017; Painting, More Painting, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2016; Shifting Geometries, Embassy of Australia, Washington DC, 2012; The Other's Other, Artspace, Sydney, 2012; The Future of a Promise, Venice Biennale, 2011; NEW10, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2010; Raafat Ishak: Work in Progress, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, 2010; Cubism and Australian Art, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, 2009; and the 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2009.

 
Rafaat Ishak is represented by Sutton Gallery, Melbourne.
 
Raafat Ishak: Chicken River will be presented at Gertrude from 29 June – 5 August 2018.

 

 


REBECCA AGNEW

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Rebecca Agnew is a New Zealand born painter, sculptor and Stop Animator based in Melbourne.  She started her two-year tenure as a Gertrude Studio Artist in the second half of 2017.

Rebecca has taken part in a number of international exhibitions and animation festivals, including Melbourne International Animation Festival, (Internationally touring), M100, Santiago, Chile and Interior 2.1 (TRAMA Centro), Guadalajara, Mexico. She has undertaken a number international residencies, including Waaw, Saint Louis, Senegal and Theertha Red Dot Gallery, Colombo, Sri Lanka. In 2014, she was awarded the Artstart Grant and 2015, the Keith and Elisabeth Murdoch Travelling Fellowship. In 2013 Rebecca was commissioned by Artbank to produce a Stop Animation Swan Song, which is now part of the permanent collection.

Rebecca recently conducted a series of workshops as part of Gertrude Contemporary's MEET MAKE CREATE at the NGV Triennial. Gertrude Gallery Coordinator, Siobhan Sloper, spoke to Rebecca about her practice and her time at Gertrude so far.

Siobhan Sloper: Your practice traverses painting, sculpture and stop motion animation. Stop motion animation isn’t a medium we see used a lot in contemporary art, how did you first become involved with it? 
 
Rebecca Agnew: I fell in love with stop-motion animation in 2007 and have made many short films since that time. The medium may be time and labour intensive, but the rewards come through the freedom you have to act out every aspect of your narrative, like a frustrated bedroom actress. The first stop motion animation I did was a collaboration for a band, The Bonscotts. I received an Australian Council VIC Rocks grants to produce the three music videos. I continued making stop-motion animation as part of my masters program at VCA because it transformed my sculpture from being static objects to miniature outer worldly narratives.
 
SS: Your animation’s Swan SongEuropaEve and Eve and Lovely Bonescentre upon female characters thrust into difficult moral or ethical situations. What is it about puppets that you feel make them an appropriate medium to explore these issues?
 
RA: Interesting question, I started looking at photographic images of uniformed groups of homogeneous women. I was obsessed by the micro expressions and subtext that emerged from analysing each individual. Puppets to me are a powerful tool to act out moral quagmires because gesture and facial expression is the main language of animation. I wanted to explore sex and gender, creating a kind of Amazonian race as a disruptive way to imbue some humour and exaggerate corners of the human condition unravelling roles of desire, conflict and oppressions. In stop-motion animation you can build uncanny worlds which allow reality to become suspended, so the ethical conundrums are contained to a space where the ambiguous non-reality is hopefully where the audience find a little sense of the miraculous.

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SS: Your narratives remind me of the earliest fairy tales (Grimm and pre -"happily ever after") - What was your favourite fairytale as a child?
 
RA: Yes, I enjoy their works! The Grimm Brothers early folklore works have a lot of unsanitised violence and cruelty reflecting on the culture and politics of the time, while still placing you into a moral tale. I am also attracted to 19th Century fiction writers using moral dilemma in a way that often does not end in the happily ever after, but by using exaggerated scenarios you are forced to examine human behaviour.
My favourite story was Bony Legs by Joanna Cole, a small girl is trying to escape a witch in a house that stood on chicken legs - the whole world becomes animated and sentient in her quest to escape.
 
SS: You also appropriate to a number of religions and ancient cultures in your works, what is your intention in referencing these?
 
I am often drawn to, and inspired by incorporating discordant art, ideas and themes- building up a kind of textured mythology. In my storytelling I use moral tales and ideologies as a trope, connecting history to current global culture. In a way I want to add layers of visual details, ideas and universal themes so the message becomes a convoluted climatic moment, and then....
 
SS: and then... the audience is left to resolve the dilemma themselves, informed by their own personal, social or global context? 
 
RA: Exactly, now I am looking at the ideas around Dataism and values around mobile phones.
 
SS: Could you expand a little on this new project?
 
RA: Its exciting to be researching new themes. I’m making five stop motion animation sets with each narrative thread reflecting on life with mobile phones in our cultural and global economy. The sets track the phone from its mining of resources to how we behave in relation to big data ideas; patterns and associations that shape our behaviour and interaction.  I just read an interesting article on Silicon Valley preparing for dooms day by building apocalyptic havens in New Zealand, while I will not be so monolithic I will definitely be looking at some of the dark sides of mobile phones!
 
SS: You have been in your Gertrude studio for 6 months now. How have you found the Gertrude Studio Program experience?
RA: It has been a pleasure to be part of the studio program so far. It has allowed me to have more space and the ability to plan longer and more ambiguous works. Coming from having a studio at home I am now able to open my studio and have support from a wider community of artists and professionals.

 


DAVID NOONAN

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David Noonan (born Ballarat, lives and works in London) is one of Australia’s most respected and internationally active artists with a practice that incorporates painting, screenprinting, sculpture, installation and film. With a practice that spans over two decades, Noonan has exhibited extensively in Australia and internationally in leading museums and biennale exhibitions. David was a Gertrude Studio artist from 1999 - 2000, during which time he presented The Likening (with Simon Trevacs) in Studio 12, later presented in Screen Life, organised by Gertrude Contemporary at the Reina Sophia Museum, Madrid and the Govett–Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth in 2002. His first solo exhibition, Type 1-36, was presented at Gertrude Contemporary in 1993.

In advance of the opening of his exhibitioA Dark and Quiet Place, Mark Feary, Artistic Director of Gertrude Contemporary spoke with David about his upcoming exhibition and reflecting on his time at Gertrude.

Mark Feary: A Dark and Quiet Place is your first filmic work since your 8mm films of 2005, why the return to the medium now?

David Noonan: I had been contemplating making a moving image piece for quite a while but in 2015 I started to reflect on being in London for over a decade and thinking about my practice more broadly. It was quite an introspective year as I had just done a large show of wall works for Xavier Hufkens gallery in Brussels and I felt like I wanted to stop making ‘things’ for a while and look back over what I had gathered over this 10-year period. Looking at this material it felt like the best way to work with it would be to make something durational. I wanted to make something that in some way examined the themes that had run through my work over that time, not exactly to summarize them, but to underline them, in order to move on.

MF: Having worked almost exclusively in painting and collaged screen-printing (predominantly as 2D works, but also in sculptural forms) over the past decade or more, how have these mediums affected and informed your current shift to film?

DN: The film is made up entirely of still images most of which have come out of the archive that I have been putting together over the last ten or so years and has been the foundation of all of my 2D and sculptural work. None of the images in the film have ever been used in my 2D works or sculptures, but rather a lot of them were material that I had collected but had not used. I subsequently looked for specific images once the film started to take shape but the majority of it came out of existing material.


MF: A Dark and Quiet and Place recently premiered in London, selected to inaugurate Modern Art’s new gallery space, and this will be the first time to be shown in Australia. What can audiences familiar with your practice expect to experience?

DN: It is almost like looking at one of my wall works, but one which constantly changes. It is essentially a montage of figurative and abstract images. None of the material has been filmed as such, so it really is using the same language and in some ways processes that I have used in my other work. The pace and the sound are intended to take the viewer into an almost meditative state. It is very much about looking and experiencing images in a particular atmosphere which people will be familiar with if they know my work at all.

MF: It could be noted that all of the films and video works you have made - your early works in collaboration with Simon Trevaks in the late 1990s to this current work, have all been titled, while for the most part your paintings and printed works are all untitled. Is there a conscious reason for this? Is it related to cinematic conventions, to narrative, production time?

DN: I often avoid titles in my non-film work as I find that language can influence the viewer's interpretation and be too prescriptive. Somehow the films feel more like albums that require titles and the pictures are like songs that can remain untitled.

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MF: This is your first solo exhibition in Melbourne since your Scenes exhibition at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) in 2009. Although you worked for a period in New York and have been based in London since the early 2000s, Melbourne audiences still hold a strong allegiance to you as an artist who has forged a very respectable international career. Are there specific challenges or affections for you as an artist in exhibiting in a city that you for a long period called home? 

DN: I was really happy to be invited to do this exhibition at Gertrude Contemporary because although I have not lived in Melbourne for a long time I have such a strong connection to the city and Australia in general. Australia will always be my home. 200 Gertrude Street hosted my very first solo show after I graduated VCA post-grad in 1993, so it’s an important gallery for me. The timing and opportunities have not aligned since my ACCA show, which is why I’ve only shown in Sydney with Roslyn Oxley9 gallery. But my affection for Melbourne is certainly strong, and as far as challenges go, I hope I can present the work in the best way that I can. A Dark and Quiet Place is significant for me as it has marked a shift in my practice and took a long time to make, so I am pleased to be sharing it with a Melbourne audience.

MF: As a Gertrude Studio Artist 1999-2000, you will be the first Alumni to present work in the new Gertrude gallery since relocating last year. What are your reflections on your time and artistic peers while in the studios?

DN: It was a really exciting time to be in Melbourne. Max Delaney was the new director of Gertrude  and he bought an amazing optimism and energy to the place. The gallery felt like an extension of the Melbourne artist run spaces scene which was super active at the time, (First Floor, Bus Projects, etc). I think Store 5 had just finished. The Melbourne Biennial 1999 had just happened, there was a palpable energy in the art world in the city at that time. Studio artists included people like Ricky Swallow and Renee So (who became my wife). I remember I spent so much time in Studio 1, and we all spent a lot of time at Yelza, the bar across the street too, it was a really socially engaged time as we were all pretty young. It was the best studio that I had ever had so I felt very lucky to be there amongst those peers and at that moment in Melbourne.

MF: Could you describe the conditions of your current studio in London, its atmosphere and how you spend time in it? Has it shifted or changed in the production of your latest work?

DN: It has taken a long time to finally have a studio that I am very happy in and suits all of my work needs. It is a large new-build, double-height ceiling space with another separate mezzanine space. It was a shell when I got it so I was able to work with an architect to design it to suit my working needs very closely, so it works perfectly for me. The atmosphere is quiet, which I am lucky to have in very urban Hackney East London. The aesthetic is quite minimal, lots of white walls and concrete, very different to my previous space in a crumbling Victorian shopfront. Moving here enabled me to fully house my archive and in doing so encouraged me to organise it and therefore look through everything which in turn inspired making the film. So, the space has in many ways facilitated the making of A Dark and Quiet Place.


DEANNE BUTTERWORTH

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Deanne Butterworth is a highly acclaimed Melbourne based dancer and choreographer. Her interests lie in the transfer of information and ideas from one body to another, the creation of energies, systems, languages and understanding developed in isolation and within groups of people. Her work is often responsive to the space in which it is shown and can involve still images, sound, music, text and video. Her works have taken place in a variety of settings including traditional performance spaces as well as galleries and outdoors.

Over a twenty year period Deanne has worked with many artists and choreographers including Phillip Adams Balletlab, Tim Darbyshire, Maria Hassabi, Rebecca Jensen, Shelley Lasica, Shian Law, Jo Lloyd, Sandra Parker, Lee Serle and Brooke Stamp amongst others. Some of her own works include: Dual Reperage in Threes, Dancehouse for Dance Massive (2011); Twinships, West Space (2012); Doublage, Arts House for Dance Massive, (2013); Siteless Now, NGV (2014), Regarding Yesterday (with Adva Zakai) at Slopes Gallery (2014); How Choreography Works (with Shelley Lasica and Jo Lloyd) at West Space and later at the Art Gallery of New South Wales for the Biennale of Sydney (2016); All Our Dreams Come True (with Jo Lloyd) at Bus Projects (2016); Two Parts of Easy Action, The Substation (2016); The Interlude, Spring 1883, (2016).

She has collaborated with or performed in the work of many visual artists including Belle Bassin and Justene Williams (both at Heide MOMA, 2016), in the work of Damiano Bertoli (Margaret Lawrence Gallery, 2016), David Rosetzky (2007), and Fiona MacDonald (2001). In 2012 she collaborated with artist Linda Tegg to host a performance at a petrol station in inner city Collingwood.

In 2015 Deanne participated in an interdisciplinary notation workshop organised by Hannah Mathews and in 2016 was artist-in-residence at the Boyd Studio 1 funded through City of Melbourne Creative Spaces program. In 2017 she worked with Rebecca Jensen and Shian Law in works which premiere for Dance Massive 2017 and with Jo Lloyd in the new work, Overture for Four.

Deanne studied at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (BA dance, 1993) and Victoria University (2011).

Gertrude Contemporary's Communications and Development Manager, Anador Walsh had the pleasure of interviewing Deanne on her practice.

Anador Walsh: When did you first become interested in movement and its potential? Was it at a young age, in a formal context? Or was it something more natural and intuitive?

Deanne Butterworth: It was at the age of four that I started dancing and I haven’t ever really stopped doing it. Moving, watching others and learning more about the world through dancing. Because I’ve been doing it for such a long time, there is something natural about it - I mean it feels like a natural thing for me to do, but not in the way that I want to dance all the time - maybe it’s about being practiced in and continuously immersed in a non-verbal physical language and over time behaving differently because of that. I tend to stumble over verbal language sometimes and circumvent a topic, which is maybe how I behave when I move as well, but maybe the moving is clearer than the talking.

Your practice is very much grounded in responding to the possibilities of space and in the transformation of space. As a Gertrude Studio Artist, how would you seek to transform your studio space: through dance, physical intervention or other means?

The day I moved in I brought a table, a chair and a mobile speaker so I’ve hardly transformed the space, yet. Having said that, I feel that a lot of my recent practice and performance works ask questions of and about the space I am in, or where a proposed work might take place. In the past I have become quite pedantic about the history of a space, feeling like a want to find out more about it before I start doing something. With the Gertrude Studio I came in and started working, working with a movement practice and using that to explore the space. The space has a very particular liveliness because of the openness and the proximity to other artists. It’s also a vastly different space to other studios I have worked in. There are sounds from other people, the sounds of the building and of me working in there. It’s as if there is a heightened awareness of what I produce while being there (sound and energy), how that’s heard by others and what they might imagine it is. It produces a particular kind of self-consciousness. At the moment I feel that the space is in a process of transforming me.

Your work transcends dance and extends itself into a space that encompasses video, image, sound, music and text. How do you navigate the melding of these mediums in your practice? Is it a process of response, such as: an image evokes a movement, or a movement occurs in response to a sound? Or is it something different entirely?

It’s probably not quite as streamlined as that and more a combination of things. Sometimes the different things that are involved are like a puzzle that doesn’t quite fit together. I never want to be too literal about things and say exactly what the thing is. I’m still sort of in awe of the potential of the body while moving and what it can do - how it can evoke multiple thoughts and ideas in the eyes of a viewer. I often work with multiple images in the beginning of a new work, but they’re not always things I will have in the studio to show someone - they might be more imaginative images that form as I do something, or might be carried through from one work to the next. In some ways, the use of these different mediums came out of a desire to show something about the process of making work and what interested me . So I might use video, sound, music, text and other things in the process of making work and then I began to reveal these so they became a part of it, sometimes actually becoming the work. It might be something about revealing and concealing, showing a sense of vulnerability and also being okay with working with things that I’m really not technically skilled in.

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We have also interviewed Studio Artist Alumni Damiano Bertoli in this incarnation of the Gertrude Newsletter. You collaborated with Damiano in 2016 on Continuous Moment: Big Foot’s Studio. This collaboration is a prime example of your melding mediums in your work. Can you elaborate on this - how did this collaboration function?

Yes! I performed in Damiano’s work for a one-off performance at Margaret Lawrence Gallery and was a merging of two characters - ‘The Curtains’ and ‘The Two Dogs’. I don’t think of this as a collaboration though - it was certainly Damiano’s work and I was a participant in it.  I really loved the way he directed and gathered people together for this situation - there were perhaps about eight people ready and willing to contribute to this slightly mad performance. We each had our own specific roles and function, and hadn’t previously worked together and certainly hadn’t rehearsed together. What happened was a result of what Damiano had set up - conversations we had, information he had given us, our knowledge of the exhibition and his work and our own histories. For me there was a sense of both fear and excitement going into this. Damiano was excellent in his role as the performing director and very comfortable with a particular looseness and unfolding of events over time, both in relation to his exhibition and to the audience. On reflection, he had such immense trust in this thing working, and there was certainly an expectation and buzz from the viewers that something brilliant was going to happen which I find fascinating. I do remember conversations we had about movements and how they might potentially be ‘read’ by the viewer, which revealed particular things about our individual histories.

Transformation is a consistent theme that spans your practice. Your work with Shelley Lasica and Jo Lloyd particularly spring to mind when speaking of your more transformative pieces. Can you speak a bit on your collaboration with these artists, and how that collaboration has allowed for transformation – be that of the audience or the space in which you performed?

I think I should be clear about the differences between working with colleagues to create work together, collaboration, authorship, and working in the works of other artists.  Shelley, Jo, and I created a work together in 2015 called ‘How Choreography Works’, shown at West Space and I would call this the only ‘collaborative’ work we have done together. Jo and I have made 3 works together since about 2002. Prior to this I had performed in Shelley’s works since 1996 and in the work of Jo since 1999. In the works by Shelley and Jo I was a contributor, experimenting, and offering a lot of my own thoughts, ideas, and questions through speaking and moving in the development process in their work. However I wouldn’t ever call myself a collaborator here, more a contributor - I would still credit Jo and Shelley with the authorship of their works I performed in.

When we have created work together, transformation and change have been examined. Questioning how things happen, where information comes from and how interests develop, how a physical language is developed, how one prepares for a performance and how that preparation affects what happens. My experience of working in their works has over time transformed my practice and perhaps their practice - in some ways that bleed is inevitable and can lead to a rebellion against what is known and an urgency for change, while reflecting upon a history.

Finally, space aside, what else inspires you to move and make new work?

It’s all in a process of transforming, as I try to work out how the Gertrude Contemporary studio is altering my practice. I’m a bit stuck on the '80s work ‘The Five Sisters’ by Guy de Cointet at the moment. I’ve also been thinking of something to so with 'a space within a space within a space ' which has something to do with the Gertrude studios' setup. I’m also spending a bit of time looking at the past - early influences that I rejected, but am interested in revisiting. But seriously, I still trip out over the potential of the moving body - watching someone breathe can be pretty fascinating - so moving will be an obsession for quite some time.

Deanne Butterworth is currently part of the Gertrude Studio Artist Program.

DAMIANO BERTOLI

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Gertrude has great pleasure in announcing that the 2017 Gertrude Edition will be contributed by leading Melbourne-based artist Damiano Bertoli. 

Damiano has had significant involvement with Gertrude for almost two decades, being a Gertrude Studio Artist from 1999 – 2001, and later serving on the Gertrude board from 2004 – 2010. Damiano presented his major work Continuous Moment in a solo exhibition at Gertrude in 2003, as well as having participated in many group exhibitions at Gertrude, notably in the twenty-year anniversary exhibition A Short Ride in a Fast Machine in 2005 and the final exhibition in our former location, The End of Time. The Beginning of Time in 2017.  

Damiano is one of the most highly regarded artists of his generation, with a practice that spans across installation, video, sculpture, drawing, painting, collage and more recently performance. He has presented over twenty solo exhibitions in museums, contemporary art centres, artist run initiatives and commercial galleries. Selected solo exhibitions include: Continuous Moment: Big Foot’s Studio, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, 2016; Continuous Moment: Sordid's Hotel, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, 2014; Continuous Moment: Anxiety Villa, Artspace, Sydney, 2011; and Continuous Moment: I’m Ok, You’re Ok, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Adelaide, 2008.

He has exhibited extensively in group and curatorial projects in Australia and internationally, including: Future Eaters, Monash University Museum of Art, 2017; Dancing Umbrellas: An exhibition of movement and light, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, 2016; Video Arte Australia y Neuva Zelanda, Centro Cultural Matucana 100, Santiago, Chile; Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2013; Yebisu International Festival for Art and Alternative Visions, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Japan, 2011; Chinatown: The Sequel, LTD Los Angeles, USA, 2011; NEW07, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2007: and Silenzi, Palazzo dei Prigione, Venice, Italy, 2006.

In advance of the launch of the 2017 Gertrude Edition, Mark Feary, Artistic Director of Gertrude Contemporary sat down with Damiano to discuss his practice. 

Mark Feary: Your practice has  variously focussed on the Manson family, the conceptual Italian architectural practice Superstudio, cinematic representations of Jesus, the design aesthetics of the Memphis Group and an obscure play by Picasso. What are the connection points between these seemingly disparate areas of interest?
 
Damiano Bertoli: My work happens through a system of bringing two or more events, art works or concepts together to share a single space; that space may be an image, video, sculpture or installation. I think of these inputs as material for my work and treat them the way a painter or sculptor would. These images and events belong to different periods in history and bringing them together collapses the distance between the times they were made, hence the title I give to most of my work - Continuous Moment.  Certain elements, such as Memphis design or Superstudio, found their way into my work partly through an attraction or interest, but mostly because they somehow belong to a context or circumstance that illustrates or describes this method of working.
 
Over the past seven or so years you have produced a number of projects relating to a little known and seldom performed play by Picasso, Le désir attrapé par la Queue (Desire Caught by the Tail), written in 1941. What is the allure of this play and what do you consider to be Picasso’s resonance today?
 
Picasso wrote this play during the Second World War, Paris was under Nazi occupation and curfew was enforced. Due to lack of freedom and limited access to materials, the play was never performed. A secret after-hours reading of the play took place in Picasso’s studio featuring many famous intellectuals of the Paris scene. As a Surrealist text, it was considered unperformable, and was only staged as a fully realised theatrical event for the first time in St. Tropez in 1967 by Jean-Jacques Lebel. This performance took the shape of a psychedelic ‘happening’ with a light show and accompanying rock music. The combination of wartime Paris and the counterculture of the late '60s provided a perfect readymade project for me; very little archival material exists from either performance, which offers many opportunities for me to speculate on what Picasso and Lebel intended when presenting this unique and unusual play.

Is there a work from your oeuvre to date that you look back upon as being a turning point in your practice?
 

I think of Continuous Moment, shown at Gertrude in 2003, as the first work that successfully realised my methodology, materially and conceptually; I almost think of it as the first ‘mature’ work, and not coincidentally, it’s the first work to use Continuous Moment as a title. A large sculptural work which wrapped around the column in Gertrude’s large gallery space, the form described a three-dimensional reading of a Caspar David Friedrich painting (Das Eismeer, 1923) depicting a shipwreck dwarfed by an enormous mass of broken ice. The painting’s composition is chaotic and I had often thought of it as somehow ‘modern,’ despite it being painted in the Romantic period; it reminded me of late 60s sculpture, and also of accumulations of discarded materials on building sites and in hard rubbish collections. I decided to recreate the ice shards as geometric forms, and added resin-cast replicas of actual hard rubbish, so all the references were combined in one form. As the source image is a painting, making the work in three dimensions also involved speculating as to what the reverse of the ice wreck may have looked like - in this sense my work extended, or continued Friedrich’s.
 

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As long as we have known each other you have always had a dedicated studio. How important is having a studio as an autonomous space for making work?

Having a studio is important on many levels. With a practice that uses archives and variations between endless images and sources, experimentation needs a space to happen in, and time is required for these processes to run their course. I’m able to see whether works speak to each other and belong to the same idea; when the work is removed from outside influence it somehow aggregates and multiplies itself. The studio also functions as a space to see the work in a context that visually approximates the gallery, allowing visitors to see the process and result outside the loop of exhibiting.  
 
What projects are coming up for you on the horizon?
 
Recently I’ve had the good fortune to work with Surpllus Publishing on a substantial monograph to be published in 2018, which will provide an overview of my practice since the early 2000s. Directed by Melbourne designer Brad Haylock, Surpllus is one of the very few publishing houses to actively promote the work of Australian artists and writers; as opportunities for arts publishing in Australia are so scarce in comparison to Europe and the United States, it's a great privilege to be invited. In addition to having the occasion to review my career in the form of a beautifully designed book, Surpllus’ international distribution will present my work to an overseas audience.
 
Is there a particular dream project that you would like to embark on if time and budget were not restrictive factors?
 

My projects that negotiate the work of 1980s Milanese design group Memphis have focused on the relationship between the idea of their designs as high-end status commodities and the origins of the group as part of the radical political climate of 1970s Italy. I’m interested in this contradiction and how perceptions of their work have changed over time. Although the style of Memphis is overtly ‘pop’ and fixed decisively within an '80s aesthetic, many of their designs reference ancient architectural forms, ruins, and symbols; I can see a massive architectural-scale installation of oversized Memphis furniture fragments, that have the appearance of aged Roman ruins – simultaneously Classical antiquity and '80s euro kitsch.
 
Damiano Bertoli is represented by 
Neon Parc, Melbourne; and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.


SAM MARTIN

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Sam Martin is currently a part of Gertrude's Local Studio Artist Program. He recently exhibited Specimen, Part 1, at Station Gallery, and has an upcoming exhibition at Gertrude Glasshouse between 8 July and 29 July.

Martin’s work tip toes the line between figurative and abstract. A cohesion of painting, textile and tapestry, Martin creates contemporary pieces that resemble tribal relics. Martin’s practice is both repetitive and various, formulaic and impromptu, purposeful and decorative. It aims to create a dialogue that communicates the labour intensity of each work. A labour both essential to the making process and final composition of each piece.

As Martin prepares for his upcoming Glasshouse exhibition, he sat down with Gertrude to discuss all things craft, inspiration and Gertrude Contemporary.

Gertrude: What’re you reading currently, or rather, what’s informing your practice right now?
 
Sam Martin:

Books:
‘The Techniques of Rug Weaving’, Peter Collingwood
‘Indian Basket Weaving, The Navajo School of Indian Basketry’
‘Georgiana Houghton’s Spirit Drawings’
‘Beyond Weaving’, Marcia Chamberlain and Candice Crockett
‘Baskets as Textile Art’, Ed Rossbach
‘The Dyer’s Art, ikat, Batik, Plangi’, Jack Lenor Larsen and Dr. Alfred Butler
‘Textiles of Ancient Peru and their Techniques’, Raoul D’Harcourt
‘On Weaving’, Anni Albers
‘New Basketry’, Ed Rossbach
‘The Nature of Basketry’, Ed Rossbach
‘Embroidered Textiles’, Sheila Paine
‘Free Jazz’, Ekbehard Jost
‘Sun Ra’, John Sinclair
 
Music:
Maurice McIntyre, ‘Humility in the Light of the Creator’
Gunter Hampel, ‘Eighth of July 1968’
John Coltrane, ‘Meditations’
John Tchicai and the Binder Quartet
Sun Ra (all albums, but specifically ‘Secrets of the Sun’)
 
There are opposing dialogues of repetition and variety, structure and improvisation in your work. Are these conversations part of the process or something you’re trying to communicate in your work?
 
Both.
 
Can you expand on this?
 
I’ve always been interested in how a surface (in this case a painted surface) can handle multiple approaches.
 
I enjoy creating a tension in my pictures. Improvisation could be associated with speed and labour could be associated with monotony and slowness.
 
I’m interested in how a viewer encounters a work and how these components could be reconciled to form a narrative of approaches or deconstructed into their individual elements.

Can you give us a little insight in to your process?
 
I like to magnify the surface. I like to focus on time. I like to let my mind wander. I like to interpret traditional methods of construction. I like to translate one form into another form. I like to let the process inform the end result. I like to work.
 

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In what capacity is the grid still significant in your practice? 
 
The grid is still important, it used to be a method of transcription from the source material to a finished painting, and now it is a platform of research. I see the warp and weft of the material as a site that can blur the lines between painting and different forms of weaving and a way to construct my own pictures.
 
What is the role of labour or ‘craft’ in your work?
 
The labour element is vital. I learn so much from the time I spend working on my pictures. It leads me to different fields of research and allows me to get absorbed into the work. In terms of ‘the craft’ element, I don’t attempt to copy processes, I aim to re-interpret them to work as a painting. I don’t seek perfection, but use it as a way of creating something unique.
 
As a current Studio Artist, can you give any insight in to what it’s like to be in the Gertrude Studios? What has your experience been thus far?
 
The Gertrude Studios is a place to work in fantastic. The size of the studio has really enabled me to diversify my practice. It’s a very enjoyable place to work. However, I’m not the most social artist and have struggled and probably haven’t made the most of the community element of the studios.


CLAIRE LAMBE

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Alumni Claire Lambe was born in Macclesfield, UK and is currently based in Melbourne. She received a Master of Fine Arts at Goldsmiths, London and is represented by Sarah Scout Presents. Lambe was a Gertrude Studio Artist between 2014 and 2016, a residency which  saw the beginning of a collaboration with contemporary dancer and choreographer Atlanta Elke, with whom Lambe worked with on Miss Universal, 2015 at Chunky Move and on Mother Holding Something Horrific, 2017 at ACCA.

Lambe’s practice engages sculpture in all its material and transformative glory and potential, to explore gender, class and identity. Her work is deeply personal, laden with subjective and popular culture references to a past, characterised by the violence and sexual promiscuity of 1970s Northern England. Lambe's current exhibition Mother Holding Something Horrific, is an amalgamation of sculpture, installation and collaborative performance with Atlanta Elke, explorative of the fine, sometimes blurred line between memory and experience, reality and re-enactment.

Mother Holding Something Horrific, curated by Max Delany and Annika Kristensen, runs until 25 June at ACCA. We interviewed Lambe about this exhibition, her time at Gertrude, and what inspires her.

Gertrude: Last year was your final year as a resident of the Gertrude Studios. Can you tell us about your Gertrude experience, how it impacted you?

Claire Lambe: It changed my thinking, working side by side with an amazing community, the workhorse downstairs, my fellow inmates, watching how it all works, how we behave together as individuals.

Pip Wallis, before she left, curated a show placing Atlanta Eke and myself together. Pip saw something I didn’t and that is so generous. Collaboration is very difficult and at Gertrude I was allowed to make mistakes and was supported in that.
 
I found the curators visits very difficult, how to language the work. I learnt not to perform to the contemporary themes of that time, and not to worry about being excluded.


Your work is inherently female – imbued with female form, sexuality and vulnerability. Does this stem from your placement of yourself at the centre of your work? 

Yes I am female, yes I am her, but it’s more about my memory of a past or how I interoperate experience. Where is now and what is the future. This is less restrictive; I am not stuck in ‘she’ or ‘here’. I can fiction the past and re-image what’s potentially in front.

How do you balance the dichotomy of repulsion and attraction, present in your work?

I don’t know what I find attractive anymore, certainly not traditional beauty or youth.
On the other hand decay and death is repulsive. There is no balance, no understanding of the other.

Mother Holding Something Horrific, running until June 25 at ACCA, is a no holds barred insight in to the human condition: gender, sexuality, identity and class. What inspired such an honest questioning of what it means to be human?

Honesty mmm honesty is overrated, honesty can be cruel. I’d like to be crueller in the work, find a fictional space where I can pull out the more horrific elements of the human condition.

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Can you elaborate on the idea of ‘the artwork as witness?’ How does this feature inMother Holding Something Horrific?

Ma femme au chat ouvert, 2017, was initiated from a past experience of hostessing in Japan in 1987. If you worked in a club longer than 3 months the customers would expect more than verbal communication, so you moved clubs. Apart from the formal structure of hostessing ie; company for a guest, there was another world you could be drawn into, for example paid sex, and the paid watching of sex. I drew a line in the sand, not morally, but for self-preservation, what were your limits, personally.
 
If I sent the sculpture into that situation, that I didn’t personally go, for example being paid to watch sex, does that still feel as if I have crossed my line of self-preservation or have I become the client? How is it possible to extract that experience, that feeling?
 
If I stage the exercise it becomes, stylised not true. If I inserted the form into a real situation, I would also become complicit.

It could just exist as an action, that the sculpture has witnessed sex, not porn.

It could witness sexual encounters or intimate moments. Most objects have witnessed intimate moments, and can be taken with you throughout your life.

Architecture and place tend to stay put.

Object as witness. Think of all those objects in hotels, clubs bars. etc.

Why the outrage when historical monuments are destroyed? Should these objects witness more?

Your work is broadly influenced – from Thatcher era, British classism, through Freudian psychoanalysis and French theory on mis-en-scene – what’re you reading or researching at the minute?
 
Thatcher, I hated her so much, it’s that hate that I make work from, not her. Sorry, still get riled up at the very thought.

Gaudi, Alien vs Predator and British Folk music.


AGATHA GOTHE-SNAPE

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Agatha Gothe-Snape held a studio at Gertrude from 2013 – 2015. Since leaving the Gertrude Studios she has exhibited in major international biennales including PERFORMA, New York curated by RoseLee Goldberg (2015) and the 20th Biennale of Sydney, curated by Stephanie Rosenthal (2016). Gothe-Snape was awarded the second Biennale Legacy Artwork project in 2016, commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney and the City of Sydney, resulting in the work Here, an Echo. The project consisted of a series of scored walks, from Speakers Corner in the Domain to Wemyss Lane in Surry Hills, made with Brooke Stamp and invited collaborators.

Agatha Gothe-Snape's practice stems from improvisational performance. It draws upon and records interpersonal and spatio-emotional exchanges around art and art contexts. It takes many forms: prosaic performances (including dance), looped PowerPoint slide shows, workshops, texts (including correspondence and found texts, as well as texts of a poetic character), visual scores and collaboratively produced art objects. It is marked by a minimal idealisation of colour and language and a frontal visual tactility. It results from agency being given to impulsive responses. Her process is without fixed limits and fosters transparency. The work inhabits spaces that are both physical and non-physical, and occupies thresholds that are negotiable.

Agatha Gothe-Snape is actively involved with Wrong Solo, a collaboration with
Brian Fuata and has been working towards 
I am a Branch Floating on a Swollen River After the Rain, a site-specific project presented by Wrong Solo in the street-front gallery of Gertrude Contemporary involving a number of participating artists. Gothe-Snape currently has a solo exhibition at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, curated by
Haruko Kumakura. She is also a current artist-in-residence at Artspace, Sydney.

Agatha Gothe-Snape is represented by The Commercial, Sydney.

Laura De Neefe: Your practice is incredibly diverse, incorporating a multitude of mediums including projections, PowerPoint presentations, painting and installation, as well as performance and audience interactions. How do you decide what artistic form an idea should take? 

Agatha Gothe-Snape: I think because my background is in performance, this sense of improvisation underlies my practice. I like to have a sense of agility always in what I’m doing, so that I’m always responsive to the task at hand. My work always responds to the context it is in and the parameters or demands of that particular context ­— whether that’s institutional or public or commercial, or a much more relational or casual context, so I really allow the context to determine what the output is going to be. For me that’s very important. I am surprised by what precipitates, that I don’t know what I’m doing and that the situation almost co-creates the work with me and being able to move between mediums is part of that deal.

LDN: You often incorporate language and transpositions of language in your works. What is the power of language to you? Is the visual aesthetic of a word or phrase as important as its meaning? 

AGS: I’m not sure where my interest in language lies. My grandmother was a calligrapher and of course I’m interested in the formal qualities of the characters and my mother is a graphic designer, so I have this foundation in typographic analysis and so all the formal qualities of the language do underpin my interest. Often I am into destabilising those hierarchies, those aesthetic hierarchies. I think that’s maybe why I use Microsoft PowerPoint because it really de-skills my visual literacy of the form of language because it’s quite a blunt tool.
 
On the other hand, I love the potential ambiguity of language — the space between its instructional use and a more open-ended poetic deployment. I think my work operates between those two spaces, slipping between those two functions of language. Especially my scores, which are written, language-based scores for performances or work or transcriptions; they always present as both instruction and open-ended statement. They are never purely one or the other and they are always an invitation to the viewer or the performer or the participant or the witness to intervene, and the act of intervention is maybe simply the act of reading. It’s an invitation to enter that ambiguous space where meaning might momentarily arrive and then slip through your fingers. Something you can never quite grasp, but then something that can appear so crystalline for a moment.


LDN: The role of the viewer in the gallery space is a key theme across your practice and you often address this in a context-specific way. How do you consider the experience of the viewer in your works before an exhibition? Do the physical limitations and opportunities of a specific space influence the final work? 

AGS: Here, an Echo that I made for the 20th Biennale of Sydney, that was very much a site-specific scored improvisation. As we were making discoveries about the site — myself and my collaborator Brooke Stamp — so too were the audience. It was almost a simultaneous discovery. I often want to make transparent these processes and procedures that I use to make the work, so I am in the dark as well as the audience until these moments of revelation and that’s very risky because often it can fail or fall through, but I really think that making myself vulnerable to an audience allows the audience to experience — that’s how I consider the audience’s experience, by allowing myself to be vulnerable to the act of witnessing. For instance, in Here, an Echo Brooke and I would walk from Speaker’s Corner in the Domain to Wemyss Lane in Surry Hills every day. That walk was public three times and opened up to a very large audience, and even though it was a public performance we were still accumulating information and even the nature of the audience being there changes the performance. Working in a very unfixed way means that everything is always volatile, and that’s the experience I want to give to the viewer. I think that’s the experience art always gives the viewer as well — even looking at a painting — and that’s why I love art because it offers spacious experiences, where the viewer is actually in power and I like the viewer to be able to understand that power they hold.

LDN: Tell us about your solo project at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo.


AGS: About two years ago, the curator Haruko Kumakura had seen my work at the MCA and invited me to work in the MAM Project. I think she liked the way that I worked in relation to other people and also site-responsively. She must have connected emotionally in some way to my work or to me. We embarked on such a great process; I really think this show was produced in relation with Haruko because it was really about me going to Tokyo for the first time, trying to find a sense of understanding of the place where the Mori Art Museum is in Roppongi and trying to understand the qualities of being there; a sense of the people that work there and use the space; and some of a sense of the history of the space. And Haruko was my complete host.
 
Really I could only get glimpses, but I had three site visits and from those visits I gleaned particular information. From all that information I began to construct a type of score, but the score didn’t just have language in it, it also had shapes and materials. Those shapes and materials had an exhibition output, which is in the gallery. For the first time I made this physical score, where the gallery becomes like a vessel for all the score materials. Then I am working with other artists and I invite them to interpret those materials to produce a performance throughout the exhibition. They can perform it in the gallery or around the district. So it is another thing that develops and changes throughout the exhibition and is unfixed so I’m not exactly sure what the outcome will be.
 
It’s such a satisfying experience having such an open-ended proposition from the curator and then creating some kind of reality with her has been such a good process. Over the past two years, I’ve had three site visits to Tokyo and Haruko came to Sydney and did a three-day workshop with me, which was such a valuable thing. I guess my work is trying to find this space of understanding this relation between me and the viewer, or between collaborators, or between the curator and the artist. This was an instance where the relationship between the curator and the artist was the most important thing and because some of the work has language in it and she would have to translate it, she has actually produced that because I can never understand the translation, so I also had to have a huge trust in her that she understood me so well that she’s been able to translate my work. I think that intimacy in the act of translation is really profound and is kind of what the show has ended up being about. I guess that’s kind of what a score is about — translating one thing to another through a live act or through performance or through reading, and that is also what this relation with Haruko has been about, translating my experience into some kind of outcome in this culture that I am quite unfamiliar with.
 
We have a six-week residency, where I will do walks three days per week and also have one performance per week with a different local collaborator. Our first performance, which was on the day after the opening was with an Australian artist that I had been working with, Anna John. She devised this beautiful sound and performance work calledBrushing and Breathing Score and we had local and Australian artists perform it in the gallery — it was really beautiful.

LDN: For I am a Branch Floating on a Swollen River After the Rain at Gertrude you have been working with long-term collaborator, Brian Fuata. Tell us about your approach to collaboration, has this influenced the way you practise as a solo artist?

AGS: Again, because I came from this training in performance and acting, you’re often working in a group context where you are devising work together. But also because I’m a very social person, I find for me that ideas very often happen in relation and they very often happen at the moment of communication. The idea of the solo artist toiling away in the studio, sometimes makes sense to me, but often it’s in the act of iteration, the act of speaking that the idea takes form.
 
I feel that I have to have people to speak it to and my friends I think feel the same way. My collaborations are very much my relationships, my friends; they are my peers and they’re now very long-standing relationships that have been going for fifteen years, with Brian Fuata as Wrong Solo, but also with Brooke Stamp, who’s a dancer and choreographer. We also have a group of us in Sydney — Sarah Rodigari, Lizzie Thomson and many other people that come in and out. So we formed Wrong Solo as a sort of permeable membrane into which people could drift in and out and that’s kind of how we see this work at Gertrude, especially. We’ve invited these Melbourne collaborators to drift into Wrong Solo and maybe remain or drift out, and my father certainly occupies a space; another person is Shane Haseman who came to Wrong Solo and drifts in and out. I really like the idea that things are always changing and never fixed. Wrong Solo is never a fixed entity — it’s always subject to the forces of the social world and the material world and the economic world.
 
In my solo practice, so often the work is created with the voices of others. It’s hard to even say it’s a solo practice because my partner and my family and my friends are always implicated in the process in some way. Whether that’s as an active witness, or a live drawing or a confidant in the nitty gritty of working through things conceptually. The act of relation is always very central to me and I find it’s hard to do anything without other people.

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LDN: What can you tell us about I am a Branch Floating on a Swollen River After the Rain, your collaborative project with Brian Fuata as Wrong Solo, which will open at Gertrude Contemporary shortly?

AGS: Brian and I love this quality of language — we love working with scores that do slip between instruction and absurdity but somehow we got into a situation where we were really unsure of what we were making and my father, Michael Snape, became very anxious about this and in his dream-state at 3am, similarly in a state between awake and asleep, between sense and nonsense he dreamt or put together a whole score for us and so it’s from this score, which we now treat as a sort of ‘ready-made’ that we are constructing for the whole of the show at Gertrude.

So we will have a video of Dad recreating this dream-state and contextualising where this information came from and Brian has used Dad’s score to do a series of performative improvisations over the last three weeks daily (ten-minute improvisations), which Brian will do again in the gallery on opening night ­— only ten minutes, it’s a very special jewel. The ‘liveness’ of that is very unique and it’s very important to see that if you want to have a sense of the origins of that practice.
 
Then we have invited a series of Melbourne-based artists to respond to my Dad’s score on some Saturdays during the exhibition. There will be three artists performing a
ten-minute improvisation each Saturday (nine total). It’s very short. We see it almost as a mould into which you cast your own performance, you can take opportunities from each score or you can dismiss them. It’s a score as any instruction is — only ever a starting point to incorporate or dismiss and we think it’s the performers’ task to decide what they do with any given information. We love this idea that people might completely transgress or diverge from the script or they might be very literal and that is all completely open. But we give Brian’s performance as a starting point, as one example of what you can do with the score.
 
We are also going to have — which I’m so happy with — on Monday we recorded Brian doing the score so we recorded a ten-minute improvisation which we will also show in the gallery, a two-channel video, which is just another example and it’s also kind of like a calling forth of the participants.
 
We are actually not going to put the text up in the gallery, instead we are going to put blank pages up. I’m trying to allow the score to sit implicitly inside the work, so the score actually is producing the work rather than being explicitly a text. Especially in Japan this was very important because English is not the primary language so I was always trying to work away from my dependency on having a text there. We are not going to have the score written, I don’t think, but we will have this motif of the empty page, the empty page of potential, the unknown outcome of each performer’s interpretation of the score.
 
LDN: It has been almost two years since you left the Gertrude Studios. Tell us about your Gertrude experience and the impact that it had.

AGS: I moved to Melbourne from Sydney for the opportunity to take up a Gertrude studio residency. It was about testing my practice in a different context, in a different city, taking myself away from all my closest collaborators and having a sense of space to make work again. It was the most valuable time. I made such amazing relationships and through Gertrude’s visiting curator program, I connected with so many curators and that’s how I came to be in the Berlin Biennale (2014) through meeting Juan Gaitán when he visited Gertrude. The constant exposure to different voices and different feedback is so important for your work; you are testing your work to a different audience that doesn’t know you really as an artist. As an artist from interstate, I found it really valuable to be working in a different community all of a sudden. You have to analyse, does that work still make sense in that city; what different feedback do you get. Just having that space is unbelievable, it’s such an amazing opportunity.
 
LDN: What are you reading at the moment?

AGS: I’m pretty much mainly reading stories to my two-year-old. My friend Aodhan Madden, who lives in Melbourne, sent me this beautiful text by Ann Carson — Every Exit is an Entrance — about the slippery worlds of sleeping and waking. He sent it to me a couple of years ago but it’s just so relevant to I am a Branch Floating on a Swollen River After the Rain.
 
LDN: Tell us about an exhibition or work you saw recently that has stuck with you.

AGS: When I was in Japan I saw the work of this collaborative group called Baby Tooth and actually one of the artists, Michiko Tsuda, I collaborated with in the video works at the Mori Art Museum. I was just so excited because they were working in such a similar way to me and my peers and we had never known each other or met each other. They were also interested in trying to articulate unknown forces — trying to describe them — exploring the space of relation between the audience and the spectator, working very much in this ambiguous space between art and performance and dance and being willing to not specify what genre they were working in. I found their work very exhilarating and it was also reassuring to see that other people were exploring similar territory in another place.


MATHIEU BRIAND

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Mathieu Briand is a Melbourne-based artist born in Marseille, France. He is one of nine new artists who will commence a Gertrude studio residency this year. 

Briand’s work is situated somewhere between perceptive reality and a displacement of the imagination. Briand creates projects in the same way as a filmmaker creates films. This approach to his practice allows him to use a multitude of available mediums across installation and performance and audience participation. He uses different mediums to destabilise and manipulate the audience experience of space and time.

His work has been exhibited extensively in Australia and internationally, including at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art, Lyon; REDCAT, Los Angeles;
Tate Modern, London; Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne; ACMI, Melbourne; Murray White Room, Melbourne; Spring 1883 Melbourne and Sydney; Arndt, Singapore; Carriageworks, Sydney and MONA, Hobart.

He received the first prize of the Biennale of Istanbul in 2001. He has created a number of permanent installations including Eternal Garden, Back to Zhong Guo, Fools Move Mountains, Nanling, China (2005), and SYS*017.ReR*06/PiG-EqN\15*25, 21st Century Contemporary Art Museum, Kanazawa, Japan (2004).

Mathieu Briand is represented by Murray White Room, Melbourne.

Laura De Neefe: You are joining the Gertrude studio program at a particularly interesting time. In 2017 you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the historic 200 Gertrude Street building before moving to a freshly architecturally-designed space at our new location. What are you most looking forward to as an incoming Gertrude studio artist?
 
Mathieu Briand: Gertrude is a new step for me — after eight years working on one project and two years managing exhibitions between Paris and Hobart, it is time to go back into the studio and focus on creativity and a new project. It will be the first time that I will create a new project solely in Australia, where I have lived for three years now. So it is fantastic that this coincides with a new page in Gertrude's history and I hope to be able to share as much as possible from my own experience to make this new page a success.
 
LDN: Your practice incorporates various new and transformed technologies including robotics, computers and interactive systems. What is the role of new technology in contemporary art and what freedoms and/or limitations are you attracted to when utilising different technologies in your works?
 
MB: Not everything is art but anything can be a tool for art, technology included. Just think about painting before and after the invention of paint in a tube. The painting is not better but it permitted the painter to leave the studio and therefore impacted on the painting techniques to follow. Now the painter can paint with an iPad, so this helps painting to continue to evolve again and expand outside its traditional zone.

The freedom or limitation doesn’t come from the technology, but from the knowledge. So I work with people who have knowledge about technology. I work like a filmmaker. I imagine something and then I try to find the way to make it exist.

 

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LDN: Your work is often underpinned by a drive to evoke a reaction from the viewer, either as an observer or a participant. Tell us about your relationship with the audience and how this forms a part of your practice.
 
MB: I am very grateful to the society I live in that I have the opportunity to do my artwork. So one of my great responsibilities is to give it back. In my process the public is in the centre of the work, not in front. What is important is what you experience not only as a spectator, but also as an actor. It is not a ‘work of art’ but ‘art at work’.

LDN: What project are you currently working on?
 
MB: I am working on a project based on the ‘uncanny valley’ concept. It is about androids and virtual reality or alternate reality...
 
LDN: What are you reading at the moment?
 
MB: I am currently reading René Girard’s The Origins of Culture. I love this French philosopher and anthropologist, who sadly died last year.
 
LDN: Tell us about an exhibition or work you saw recently that has stuck with you.

MB: 
AUTOMATON by Sandra Parker and Rhian Hinkley at Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne.
 
I really liked this show/performance. For its simplicity and efficiency. It is always a challenge to do a performance in a gallery. Just as it is a challenge to do a show with kinetic or robotic sculptures. In this case, they worked together in perfect harmony and I found it to be a very successful experience for the spectator. Human movement and the movements of the machines were combined in a very interesting way.

I also really enjoyed the 
David Hockney exhibition at NGV (David Hockney: Current) because his answer to your second question is brilliant. Fresh art with a fresh tool by a fresh mind. So optimistic, so inspiring.


PAUL YORE

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Artistic Director Mark Feary recently caught up with Paul to talk about his experience in the Studio Program, forthcoming projects and the Gertrude Edition for 2016.

Mark Feary: The concept of creating 52 unique works relating to fears, phobias and anxieties aligned to letters of the alphabet is intriguing. Could you discuss how you devised your project for this year’s Gertrude Edition?
 
Paul Yore: From the outset, I knew I was going to make each piece entirely from scratch, as I avoid using modes of mechanical reproduction in my work — I couldn't print or cast multiple copies of a single work. So I started thinking about how the Gertrude Edition generally contained about 50 or so individual pieces, and I wanted to allow this numerical value to frame the project conceptually. I came up with the idea of the series comprising 52 works — two works each to represent every letter of the alphabet, both in uppercase and lowercase forms. I have used alphabets in my previous works, which, taking the form of textiles, lend themselves easily to the vernacular of cheery nursery-room pedagogical charts (‘A’ is for apple, and so on). These devices, designed to stimulate the earliest stages of language acquisition, fascinate me. But I find something menacing about the rigid categorisation of the world that involves pinning something down with a name, and therefore ‘knowing’ it. The way we perceive reality is so heavily informed by these earliest childhood encounters. I decided to try and imbue my alphabet series with some dark Freudian notion of neurosis and perversities that have their root in the nascent years, and came up with an index of fears and aversions to correspond to each letter. So instead of ‘A’ is for apple, for example, I have ‘A’ is for ailurophobia (an extreme dislike of cats).
 
MF: Your practice spans across multiple mediums and often integrates found objects. How do you select these items for inclusion within the composition of your work?
 
PY: I have this idea about the arbitrariness of things that often underpins my work. I feel that even if a material was consciously chosen with some rigorously delineated conceptual reasoning, there would always be endless ‘unknowns’ involved in the decision. Everything that exists has some secret history that can never be entirely discovered, so I figure that to choose one thing over another thing is inherently absurd. I allow this absurdity to be the guiding principle in my decision making process, and I gravitate towards objects that resonate with whatever my intention is in that moment. I have always been attracted to things of pathos or humour, because I think art should elucidate the emotive world of lived experience — of confusion, desire or despair.
 

MF: Your sculptural works in particular feature these found objects, as evident inLove is Everything that was recently shown in your Neon Parc exhibition earlier this year. What is your approach to creating these incredibly detailed, dense and intricate installations? Are they processed-based work, constructed organically, or meticulously planned for a specific result?
 
PY: My sculptural installations are accumulative pieces spanning many years of collecting and constructing. Technically speaking, Love is Everything was the eighth incarnation of a singular, ongoing work that has expanded and changed dramatically since its beginnings in 2008. Each new context for the work informs its shape and content, and I use the piece as a vehicle for the disparate concerns I have in each particular setting. The pieces are built in a very haphazard way, but I always feel a piece must have an underlying order that gives shape to the chaos of the surface.

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MF: Thinking back over the past three years, how has your experience at Gertrude Contemporary influenced your current practice and where you are today?
 
PY: My residency at Gertrude Contemporary was the perfect buffer between the sheltered working environment of art school and the cutthroat environment of the arts industry. Having the independence to work in solitude, being able to freely experiment, but also to have critical feedback and a support network is invaluable. Gertrude also opened my practice up to engagement with a broader arts audience, which is vital as a young artist when you are just trying to get your work seen.
 
MF: If you could give one piece of advice to an early practice artist about to commence their residency at Gertrude Contemporary, what would it be?
 
PY: My advice would be — don’t be too precious about your work… use the time to experiment widely and try new things. Engage with other artists, even if you are antisocial. It is really good to see other approaches to the studio up close. And one last thing: make the most of it because time flies by and you will miss it, particularly as a young artist, it is a real luxury to have access to your own large studio space 24/7. This might not always be the case.
 
MF: What exhibitions are you working toward at the moment?
 
PY: I am showing at the NADA Miami Beach art fair with Neon Parc in December, and working on a new series of textile works for a solo show at Hugo Michell Gallery in Adelaide in March 2017.
 
MF: What are you reading at the moment?
 
PY: On Ugliness by Umberto Eco. 


MINNA GILLIGAN

1 - Minna Gilligan, Brass in Pocket, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Daine Singer, Melbourne

Minna Gilligan works primarily in painting, drawing and collage. She will complete her two-year Gertrude Studio residency at the end of 2016. Minna has a Bachelor of Fine Arts (First Class Honours) from the Victorian College of the Arts. Minna works as an illustrator for New York-based online magazine ROOKIE and is a member of artist collective The Ardorous, curated by Canadian photographer Petra Collins. She also performs in the band Pamela with Georgina Glanville and Gertrude Alumni Artist Jon Campbell. Minna is represented by Daine Singer, Melbourne.

Minna has published three books,Time After Time, 2015 (Hardie Grant Australia/ Rizzoli New York), Poems, Prayers and Promises, commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria and 
So Far, 2016 recently released at the New York Art Book Fair. She sat down with Development and Communications Manager Laura De Neefe, to chat about her varied practice, her time at Gertrude, and what's looming on her horizon.

Laura De Neefe: Although you work across different mediums, you have such a distinctive and recognisable aesthetic. Did developing your own style come quite intuitively? What have been some of your influences in building this aesthetic?

Minna Gilligan: My own aesthetic definitely came intuitively, however its direction was reliant on outside stimulus that I subconsciously soaked up like crazy at the time. I was well into second year at VCA and was expanding my mind in ways only a space like art school could facilitate. I didn’t socialise a whole lot, and subsequently spent heaps of time on Tumblr and Instagram and would watch films and read books I’d borrow from the library having these kind of epiphany experiences visually and melodically every second of the day. It was definitely this type of renaissance period I went through that forged the path for the work I respond to and the work I make now. I don’t think that’s an individual experience somewhat, but it’s individual in what results, in the curated sparks you inexplicably extract from the mess and subsequently interpret.

LDN: In the recent exhibition Dancing Umbrellas at Heide Museum of Modern Art, you presented a series of GIFs. What drew you to incorporate this particular form of digital media on your practice?

MG: I made gifs a whole lot for my blog and social media accounts a few years ago, initially as a somewhat creative/three dimensional documentation of my outfits at the time. They became like this open-ended narrative that I was the protagonist in, they facilitated a character and a scene in the way I felt a collage did. Sue Cramer, the curater at Heide, trawled back through my blog and found these gifs I’d made and asked if I’d consider showing them. As I’m pretty into legitimising internet art and the ‘selfie’ I was really into the idea. We built this wall at Heide so that the gif works could sit flush and on exactly the same plain as the collages and they both became these sort of infinite windows or portals – hence the title of the work ‘Song outside my window’. I made some new gifs to sit alongside the old gifs and there was like me at 19 alongside me now. I enjoyed approaching the process again in a more ‘serious’ manor, but I think the newer gifs still emanate that slightly self-conscious softness and youth of the originals.

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LDN: Your collage works often include vintage images, especially of women and domestic spaces from the 1960s and 1970s. How do you choose these images to collage? Is this time period and domestic aesthetic an important touchstone for you?

MG: I have a scary amount of books that then contain an even scarier amount of imagery. The way I choose what to use and what not to use is often, at times hard to put into so many words. In a particularly potent crit in VCA honours, someone described the way I navigate amongst the imagery to be like a medium – as if something else from somewhere else is communicating to me inexplicably what to cut out and what to leave. I related to that in a lot of ways, because a lot of the time my choices are based on an intuition of knowing of what’s wrong or right for a work simply because I just know. The women I choose are characters in my narratives, they are either right or wrong and there’s no in-between. It’s very easy for me to make decisions when it comes to collage imagery. Women are my favourite protagonists, as I want women and women identifying people to take up space and be visible in ways that make them powerful. It sounds super simple but as a feminist that’s always been my main objective, I just never saw it potentially being any other way.

In regards to domestic spaces — I’m attracted to how absent and stilted they can be in books, and how I can then occupy them in whatever way I choose. The 1960s and 1970s had this absolutely dynamic energy that filtered down into curtains and bedspreads and carpets from psychedelic drug culture. I love how everything seemed completely saturated, completely soaked in this fearlessness. The spaces embody that for me, and I can inhabit the emptiness of these interior shoots with whomever and whatever I want.

I wrote my whole honours thesis on why I have this captivation with the time periods of the 1960s and 1970s and I never really figured it out completely. It’s all the above stuff I suppose, coupled with a misplaced nostalgia handed down to me from my Mother who raised me exclusively on music and fashion of those eras…

LDN: You are coming to the end of your two-year studio residency at Gertrude Contemporary. Can you tell us how having a studio at Gertrude has shaped or perhaps changed your practice and output?

MG: Having a studio at Gertrude has been monumental in helping me to personally legitimize my practice. The supportive community and staff at Gertrude have been vital forces in allowing me to figure out where I think my work sits in a contemporary context, as I’ve struggled with labels being thrust upon me, and with working between fine art and commercial practices. It meant a lot for me to be accepted into this institution as an equal, as someone with something important to say - and reminds me that perspectives are changing and people are becoming less reluctant to pigeon hole people and their practices. Not to mention that this will no doubt be the most glamorous studio I will ever inhabit in my lifetime!

LDN: What are you working on at the moment?

MG: I just released my third book, which just launched last week at the New York Art Book Fair. It’s called ‘So Far’, and is a collection of my collage works “so far…”
In January I am having a solo exhibition at Castlemaine Art Gallery, and I’m also currently making work for the end of year Gertrude exhibition.

LDN: What are you reading at the moment?

MG: Tavi Gevinson’s Infinity Diaries on Rookie Magazine.